Sunday July 13th. 2014                                                                                        Charity registration No. SC 002876

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Our Lady of Aberdeen, Feast Day, July 9th

Devotion Our Lady of Aberdeen is still very much alive in the city and the Aberdeen diocese, with churches after her, and many parishes having a statue of her to encourage devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. The early history of the statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen goes back to pre-Reformation days.It is approximately three feet high, probably carved in linden wood, and painted.  It was also decorated with silver and gold. Our Lady carries the Christ Child in her arms and holds a sceptre.

The original medieval statue is said to have stood in either the  Cathedral of Saint Machar or the Mother Kirk of Saint Nicholas in Aberdeen in the time of Bishop Gavin Dunbar, and it was credited with miraculously directing him to the spot where the new bridge over the River Dee should be built.  A chapel was also built there which housed the statue. Here travellers to the city could pause after their dangerous journey and give thanks to the for their safe arrival. The chapel was given into the care of the Magistrates of Aberdeen. When the tumultuous background, of the Reformation reached the city in 1529,  the statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen was hidden and treasured by the faithful in the North East of Scotland. It was secretly moved from location to location, and brought out at clandestine masses. However, it was becoming increasingly difficult, and the faithful decided that it must be sent abroad for safe keeping.

George, the 5th Earl of Huntly, continued to support masses, and priests, and kept the statue hidden. The Gordons knew very well that they had been entrusted with the greater part of the precious property of the cathedral in Aberdeen, with the solemn undertaking to restore it when asked to do so by the Bishop. However, after 65 tumultuous years, not much of the original property remained, in fact, only the wooden statue remained in their care. It was also looking extremely doubtful if the old faith would ever be allowed in Scotland again. It had now been banned and persecuted for three generations. The only way to ensure the survival of the statue was to send it abroad. The Gordon family had long standing connections with Spain, which continued into the 20th century. Henrietta Gordon was a friend of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia, the daughter of King Philip II of Spain.  Isabella was the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, which included parts of northern France, and she lived in Brussels. Isabella agreed to accept the statue as a gift and to keep it safe. Arrangements were made in the greatest secrecy to send the statue to Isabella Claram.

 In Aberdeen, there was an important merchant, called William Laing who liaised with Father  Barthelemy de los Rios, an Augustinian Friar who was the chaplain to the Archduchess. They arranged for a Spanish ship to come to Aberdeen harbour. William Laing smuggled the statue aboard,

Finally, it was installed with great ceremony in the Church of Notre Dame du Bon Succés, Brussels. The Statue, now known as ‘Our Lady of Good Success’ (the title ‘Our Lady of Aberdeen’ came later) was  eventually moved, by order of Napoleon, to the  Church of Notre Dame de Finistere, where it remains still.  In 1860, when the Cathedral of St.Mary of the Assumption was dedicated in Aberdeen, a petition for the statue’s return to the city was made to Pope Pius IX. The appeal was unsuccessful so the statue remains in Brussels, where the people hold it in great affection and is venerated by many pilgrims to the church.

During the two great World Wars many soldiers from the area visited the church and prayed before the statue of our Lady which they knew as  Our Lady of Aberdeen, and some of the chaplains were able to say Mass at Our Lady’s altar. Canon Grant, an Aberdeen priest who was a chaplain in the First World War, visited the chapel with some Aberdeen soldiers to pray at the statue, There was a momentary temptation to  take the statue with them in the hope of bringing it back to Aberdeen, but the thought was quickly dispelled when they saw the true devotion the people had to the statue.

The local people were very much aware of the statue’s link with Scotland, and they received the priests and soldiers with great kindness and offered them what hospitality they could.

Many favours have been granted through devotion to Our Lady of Aberdeen,  There are copies of the statue in several churches of the  Aberdeen diocese.

Our Lady of Good Succour we raise our thoughts to thee
where the Don flows down the valley to greet the silver Dee.
Help us to foster bravely, amid this beauteous scene
a faith both deep and loving, Our Lady of Aberdeen

Our Lady of Good Succour in the country saints have trod,
Saint John the brave Confessor laid down his life for God;
with the zeal of great Columba and Margaret, saint and queen,
inspire anew thy children, Our Lady of Aberdeen.

Our Lady of Good Succour may the love of God enfold
our people and surround them with gifts of grace untold.
May a brighter dawn be breaking and a fairer hope be seen
for our city and our nation, Our Lady of Aberdeen.

Our Lady of Good Succour once by this comely shore
men looked for thy protection and favours would implore.
To serve thy Son still guide us, O patroness serene; for Scotland is thy kingdom,

Our Lady of Aberdeen